Oscar Fashions 2014

There are so many awards shows now it’s hard to keep up with all the fashion statements.  But I figure celebrity stylists save their best for last, so I paid extra attention to who wore what on last night’s Oscar telecast. Here are some of my favorites:

The Blue Belles

Sandra Bullock (Alexander McQueen) in deep space navy.

Lupito N’gano (Prada) in sky blue.

The Ice Queens

Cate Blanchett (Armani Prive) in barely-there baubles.

Angelina Jolie (Elie Saab) in tinsel-town silver.

 The Ladies in Red

Anna Kendrick (J Mendel) in cut-out crimson.

 Pink rocking her Ruby Red Slipper dress.

And I was happy to see Meryl Streep (Lanvin) looking so effortlessly elegant. That’s a look I could see myself copying. So what were your favorite frocks of the evening?

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Friday Things Considered: The Chasing Rainbows Edition

At the end of a rainy Friday, I left the house to run a quick errand and found myself chasing rainbows all the way home.  I spotted the first one as I rounded a corner in downtown Oakland and immediately pulled over to admire it. Hoping to find a more open vista I drove a few blocks south to Lake Merritt but by then the rains had started up again and all I could see was a faint shimmer of color. I turned east to pick up my weekly box of CSA vegetables and the sun came out just long enough to create this stunner over the Claremont golf course.

Yes, beauty is often fleeting.  So best to catch it while you can.

Some other things worth chasing this week:

Rainbows mean rain. Here in California that’s cause for a Happy (Rain) Dance.

Thinking I’d like to add rain chains to my next house.

Bravo to Nars and Marc Jacobs for their stance on Age + Beauty.

This serene art installation really floats my boat :)

Cool Olympic photos from Sochi make me miss the games.

Golden Rules for writing well could be applied to any creative project.

And finally, exquisite animation makes The Wind Rises 2014′s first Must See film.

 Happy Weekend!

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Best Design in the Movies of 2013

There are just a few more days left to see some of last year’s fabulous set designs on the big screen. If possible, check out “American Hustle” or “Her” in a theater and rent “The Great Gatsby” before the Oscars are handed out on Sunday night.  These three movies topped my list (and the Academy’s) for best art direction.  Here are a few other cinematic design elements that caught my attention last year.

2013 Chaise Lounge Awards*

Given the number of solitary protagonists in films this year, movie set designers were often limited to outfitting claustrophobic dwellings the size of a lifeboat, a space capsule or an abandoned car. But fortunately they were not slavishly bound to small-scale design in every film.

Leonardo DiCaprio splurged on luxurious objets d’art, circa 1920  in “The Great Gatsby” and 1990 in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Jennifer Lawrence piled pattern on pattern on the walls of her ’70s suburban home in “American Hustle” and Joaquin Phoenix found rosy-hued design love throughout the futuristic cityscape of “Her.”

So thank you to the art directors who once again used scrumptious furnishings, wallcoverings, textiles and art to tell tales at the movies. Here are my annual Chaise Lounge (or Longue for you Francophiles) awards for the best design elements in the movies of 2013 . . .

Best Closet–Nothing says you’ve arrived like a two story custom closet from which to fling your pastel-hued shirts a la “The Great Gatsby.” Though as long as we’re talking fantasy, I wouldn’t mind occasionally popping into the time travel closet in “About Time.”

Best Bathroom—Layer multiple patterns of foil wallpaper and you have one mighty fine disco bathroom where con artists can do the (“American) Hustle.”

Best Kitchen–Modest and cluttered, Brad Pitt’s kitchen telegraphed the beauty of everyday life before all zombie hell broke loose in “World War Z.”

Worst Laundry Room–Since the nuns refused to come clean, the convent laundry in “Philomena” harbored plenty of dirty little secrets.

Best Terrace–Even if their relationship was on shaky ground, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy found some beautiful rockwork terraces in Greece to shore up their marriage in “Before Midnight.”

Best Winter Retreat–Who wouldn’t want to build a snowman at the beautiful ice palace in “Frozen?”

Best Those Were The Good Old Days Décor–Like Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine,” I would have felt pretty blue about having to slum it in San Francisco after losing that fabulous house in the Hamptons.

Best Villain’s Lair–Grand but menacing, Donald Sutherland’s digs (as well as the victors’ prize homes) made neoclassical design feel especially nasty in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” And though Daniel Brühl’s father wouldn’t back his racing career, the ancestral Austrian home gave me quite a “Rush.”

Best Bare Bones Media Room–You don’t need a million bucks in order to catch up with family while catching the game in “Nebraska.”

Best Feminine Mystique Interiors–Rosy red and pink wall panels, lampshades and screensavers lit up Joaquin Phoenix’s emotional wasteland in “Her.”

Best Sex and the Single Girl Pad–Amy Adams’s sleek white brick apartment in “American Hustle” was no scam. Least likely to win this category, Keri Russell’s sad “Austenland” bedroom hustled any potential Darcys away.

Worst Cruise Cabin–No matter the expansive ocean views, it’s a toss-up who had the more horrific quarters between Tom Hanks’s floating prison in “Captain Phillips” and Robert Redford’s sinking ship in “All Is Lost.”

Best Dead End Digs–Narrow hallways ending in tiny doors in ‘60s Greenwich Village musicians’ apartment buildings showed that “Llewyn Davis” wasn’t getting inside any scene. Runner-up–the spare hilltop Australian bungalow in “Saving Mr. Banks.”

Best Robot Décor–Once you’ve seen one Ye Olde Pub interior–and a bunch of severed blue-blood limbs–you’ve pretty much seen them all in “The World’s End.”

Best Workshop–Though Robert Downey Jr.’s workshop went kablooey, the make-do Midwestern garage helped prove that Ironman will always save the day. Also nominated, Lily Tomlin’s bike shop in “Admission.”

Cheeriest Aboveground Underground Club–The salmon pink and sky blue paint job gave hope to those in need at the motel where Mathew McConaughey ran the “Dallas Buyers Club.”

Best Home Appliance/First-Aid Kit–The total home health care healing machine in “Elysium” was out of this world.

Best Wedding Decor–Show up to see your daughter married then end up falling in love with the groom’s father and moving into his lovely Italian villa? Turns out “Love Is All You Need.”

Best Outdoors Massage Parlor–Catherine Keener’s lovely trellised garden made for a great spot to dish the dirt in “Enough Said.”

And now, the Grand Chaise—the one with the leopard print velvet slipcover—is awarded to The Place I Wish I Called Home.

Though I could commit to the brown shingle-style house with the private dock in Connecticut in “The Big Wedding” or spend a fair amount of time killing time in the rambling Georgian villa on the Cornwall coast in “About Time,” my heart goes to Tobey McGuire’s rose-covered writer’s cottage in “The Great Gatsby.”  The Arts & Crafts interiors and homey flower gardens made me want to kick up my heels, old sport!

*A version of this post ran 2/23/14 in the Bay Area News Group papers.

Photos provided by Annapurna Pictures, Fox Searchlight, Lionsgate, Disney, Sony Pictures, and Warner Brothers 

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Friday Things Considered: The Valentine’s Day Edition

Happy Valentine’s Day!   A few weeks ago I was stuck on a muddy road outside Tarma, Peru waiting over an hour for construction to clear. Was I frustrated? Of course. But after awhile I stopped fussing about getting to our destination and started focusing on the  unexpected beauty around me.  I saw a good deal to love–including these “I ♥ Tarma” signs everywhere.  Stuck in the mud on my way somewhere else, I began to ♥ Tarma myself.

Here are a few lovely things I came across this week:

Love lessons from 100 happy couples.

The myth of Prince Charming.

Hot matchstick art.

Sweetheart pinchusions.

Valentine’s table centerpiece.

Pink Cake!


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Design San Francisco 2014 – Suzanne Tucker and Singing the Blues

On a not-so-blue-skies day last week I popped into Design San Francisco to catch Suzanne Tucker’s gracious presentation about her design practice illustrated with projects from her new book “The Romance of Design”. (Read more of what Tucker had to say in my BANG profile this weekend.) After she’d  finished, I took a closer look at the furnishings on the San Francisco Design Center stage and thought that though Pantone has declared Radiant Orchid the color of the year, I continue to see a sea of blue textiles and accessories.

Like these lovely cornflower blue fabrics from Tucker’s home line made into bed linens.

Some nautical navy sewn into cushions and pillows.

Watery turquoise resin molded into tabletops.

Bold graphic periwinkle rugs.

Slate-blue wall coverings.

And ethereal aqua art.

Maybe purple will eventually reign, but for now blue rules.


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Misty Monday

Native born Californians relish sunny February days.  But for us transplants from cooler climes, there’s nothing like a misty midwinter morning to rev us up.

Wet, gray skies turn the evergreen landscape into a black and white still life reminiscent of our snowy childhood playgrounds.


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A Frosty Farewell

Sorry to leave you hanging with promises of Peru pictures.   I meant to make good on those promises, but then a few days after our return, just as I was feeling back to normal, we got a call in the middle of the night.  The kind of call that lets you know the old normal is no more.

The new normal is that my father-in-law, Jed Pritchett, is gone.  After a decade of mentally slipping away, his body caught up with his ebbing mind and he passed away suddenly, leaving behind his devoted wife Jackie, four living children, fourteen grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and five children-in-law, including me.

What followed was the usual flurry after a loved one dies.  Funeral arrangements were made, plane tickets purchased, mourning wear packed.

Then the gathering commenced—first in Boise, Idaho where Jed and Jackie lived for forty-some years, then on to American Fork, Utah where Jed had been raised and where he would be buried alongside his parents and two children who preceded him in death.

The services were tearful, rollicking affairs where Jed’s smart, funny children and grandchildren delivered stories of his life with an equal amount of respect and roast. Had I spoken, I would have talked about all the ways he made my life better, including the fix-it projects he did whenever he came to visit. As it was, I felt blessed to perform one of his favorite songs “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning” with my son and two other in-laws at the Boise service.

After the first service the pallbearers loaded the casket into M.J.’s brother Lant’s white mini-van to drive the six hours to Utah, making sure not to dislodge the beautiful casket spray filled with feathers from pheasants Jed had hunted over the years.

Jackie had balked at a lonely last ride for Jed by way of an anonymous hearse driver.  And so, when the mortician said it wouldn’t be a problem to deliver the body without his assistance, Lant volunteered to drive Jed home.  Jackie would ride shotgun and they’d do their best to get one last speeding ticket as a proper send-off for the fearless (and lead-footed) patriarch of the Pritchett clan.

Alas, no such ticket was issued, but the speedy delivery ensured a second service the next day where Jed was feted with further offerings of song and story before being laid to rest in the American Fork cemetery.  Cinematic snowflakes fell as his grandson Tony played “Stardust,” another favorite tune, on the trumpet.

In and around the services, multiple generations of cousins mingled.  Looking at the people who had known and loved my father-in-law I couldn’t help but note the unspoken “passing of the torch.”

Jed’s generation is gone or going.  Our generation is sobered by a clearer view of the finishing line.  And those little grandkids that used to spill out of Grandma Jackie’s dress-up closet or water-ski behind Grandpa Jed’s speedboat? Well, they’ve turned into a handsome bunch of young adults, tackling the world with the same intensity and intelligence as their grandfather.

Hard to take your eyes off them, really.  Where did the time go?

So I’ll get back to telling you about Peru and upcoming design events shortly.  But for a bit, I’ve been watching time march—no, rush—onward as we said good-bye to a beloved husband, father and grandfather. Godspeed, Jed. You will be missed.

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Pondering Peru

Hello!  I’m back from exploring a part of the world that is frankly otherworldly.  Peru was so much more colorful, noisy, beautiful and demanding than I expected.  I’ll share more over the next few weeks as I edit photos and compose my thoughts, but couldn’t wait to show you some of the gorgeous colors and textiles I saw there–starting with the clothing these children were wearing on the streets of Ollantaytambo. Aren’t they something?

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Revving Up for the New Year

Happy New Year! I hope you made very merry over the holidays.  So much so that you’re just now turning to New Year’s Resolutions.  I haven’t made a single one, but I have enjoyed dipping into Susannah Conway’s Unraveling Workbook for 2014.  The workbook is a free download and gives you lots of writing prompts to explore what transpired last year in order to think about what you’d like to happen this year.  Perfect if you’re staring down your own Blue Monday today.

Perhaps you’re hoping to get your house in order in 2013.  If so, this post on a Zero Waste Home might be helpful (or horrifying).  Maybe you’d like to slow down and enjoy your home more. Delia has some good suggestions about how to do so.

Me, I’m trying to create a short list of house projects for 2014 knowing that there are several big trips and a move ahead.  Decluttering/purging will be a necessary part of moving. Fortunately, our last move was so recent that we haven’t accumulated too much more, though “Weddingville” (the garage corner filled with leftovers from our two daughters’ weddings in 2012) needs some attention. Once we’ve landed, I’d like to repaint our dining table—the top has moved from artfully distressed to depressingly dingy—and recover a favorite slipper chair.   What home projects are you hoping to tackle in 2014? Do you have a tried-and-true method for Getting Things Done?

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Winding Down

Merry Christmas all! Here’s hoping you’re resting from your holiday labors this weekend.  Feet up, book in hand, take-out menus or a no-fuss slow cooker recipe nearby.  Me? I’m perusing a new collection of essays on knitting, finalizing Peru plans and playing with the kids when they’re around. Just doing my best to slow down and enjoy a few days of reflection. Here’s wishing you the same.

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Kathryn Pritchett

writes about Things Elemental — where we find shelter, why we connect, what sustains us and how we strut our stuff.

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